The D.C. Spe­cial Elec­tion

Muriel Bowser in Ward 4 and Vic­tor Van­dell in Ward 7 are the best bets for coun­cil.

The Washington Post Sunday - - Letters To The Editor -

DIS­TRICT res­i­dents in Wards 4 and 7 will go to the polls May 1 for a spe­cial elec­tion to fill some big shoes. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and D.C. Coun­cil Chair­man Vin­cent C. Gray (D) were elected last fall and va­cated terms that will ex­pire in Jan­uary 2009. Vot­ers in Wards 3 and 4 also will elect a new Board of Ed­u­ca­tion mem­ber to re­place Vic­tor A. Reinoso, who be­came deputy mayor for ed­u­ca­tion. Spe­cial elec­tions, of­ten with low voter turnout, tra­di­tion­ally at­tract many can­di­dates be­cause win­ning is eas­ier with a small base of sup­port. This year’s races are no ex­cep­tion. Ward 4 has 19 can­di­dates, Ward 7 has 18 and eight peo­ple are run­ning for a seat on the school board.

Mr. Fenty will be a hard act to fol­low in Ward 4, par­tic­u­larly in the area of con­stituent ser­vice. A strong group of can­di­dates with years of com­mu­nity ac­tivism in­cludes Bright­wood con­sul­tant Charles C. Gaither (D) and Gray­lan Scott Ha­gler (D), pas­tor of Ply­mouth Con­gre­ga­tional United Church of Christ, but the best choice is (D), a 34-year-old Riggs Park res­i­dent with a back­ground of ANC ser­vice. Ms. Bowser’s em­pha­sis is on neigh­bor­hoods, and she has keen in­sights on trans­porta­tion and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, ideas shaped in part by her ex­pe­ri­ence run­ning a gov­ern­ment cen­ter in Mont­gomery County. Ms. Bowser has been en­dorsed by Mr. Fenty, and we see her em­u­lat­ing his en­er­getic approach to gov­ern­ment. Some have un­fairly sug­gested that be­cause of Mr. Fenty’s sup­port, Ms. Bowser will be a rub­ber-stamp for the mayor. Any­one who has seen Ms. Bowser stake out a po­si­tion, even when it’s not pop­u­lar with the crowd, would not fear for her in­de­pen­dence. She alone of the Ward 4 can­di­dates had the courage to sup­port trans­fer­ring con­trol of the schools to the mayor. Also run­ning in Ward 4 is lob­by­ist Michael A. Brown (D), who aborted his candi- dacy for mayor last year. Mr. Brown is an at­trac­tive cam­paigner with high name recog­ni­tion, but he’s run­ning on prom­ises (elim­i­nat­ing prop­erty taxes for se­nior cit­i­zens, re­fi­nanc­ing the base­ball sta­dium deal) not likely to be kept. Muriel Bowser would bring bal­ance to the coun­cil, while serv­ing Ward 4 with vigor.

In Ward 7, the field is dom­i­nated by can­di­dates with deep roots in the com­mu­nity, but the one with the best ideas and most en­ergy is new­comer (D). Mr. Van­dell, a 41-year-old Dean­wood res­i­dent, rightly places the em­pha­sis of his cam­paign on bet­ter meet­ing the needs of a ward that has too long felt and been ne­glected. Mr. Van­dell served as ward co­or­di­na­tor for Mr. Fenty’s may­oral cam­paign; if he is elected, we see him de­liv­er­ing mus­cu­lar con­stituent ser­vice. He has promised to open a ward coun­cil of­fice and to unite the ward through bet­ter use of ANCs. The is­sue he is most pas­sion­ate about is bet­ter­ing the lives of young peo­ple, and he has promis­ing ideas for youth pro­grams. Mr. Van­dell’s crit­ics re­sent that he has lived in the ward for less than two years, but be­ing a coun­cil mem­ber is about more than pay­ing your dues. We ad­mire his vi­sion and fresh ideas. The strong­est school board can­di­dates are

com­mu­nity out­reach di­rec­tor at KIPP DC, and con­sul­tant Martin Levine. We en­dorsed Mr. Levine when he ran for the board in 2000 and still ad­mire his smarts and com­mit­ment. But Mr. Biddle is bet­ter suited to be part of a board that will be re­shaped un­der the ex­pected may­oral takeover. Mr. Biddle’s back­ground as a teacher and a di­rec­tor with Teach for Amer­ica and his knowl­edge of suc­cess­ful char­ter schools will be im­por­tant as­sets for the board. That he has one child in a D.C. pub­lic school and an­other headed there gives him even more in­cen­tive to work for school im­prove­ment.

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